If you’ve ever tried to lose weight or build muscle before, you probably understand the hard work and dedication it requires to see results. When you only look at the scale or tape measure as a way to monitor your progress, the process can seem painfully slow. Painfully slow progress can often lead to a lack of motivation, and before you know it, you are backsliding on your goals or giving up altogether.

How often do you stop to think about what is happening to your health as you work to achieve your shape change goals? I firmly believe that every .25 pound of weight loss, every .25 inch lost from your body, and every noticeable change in your shape according to your progress photos should be celebrated. It’s interesting to me that many clients feel that these changes are insignificant or aren’t worth celebrating. They will downplay their progress because they expect to see the scale rewarding their efforts.

Stop and think about how minor changes lead to big results over time. If these changes happened weekly, you would see even more significant change over the course of a year. In 52 weeks, a .25 lb weight loss and .25 inch loss every week would add up to around a 13-pound weight reduction and 13 inches gone from your body. Losing even a few pounds and a few inches actually makes a big difference. 

What can happen to your health with just a 5% weight loss is pretty impressive. For a 200 pound person, 5% weight loss is the equivalent of 10 pounds. For a 150 pound person, 5% weight loss is around 7.5 pounds. That may not seem like much, but studies indicate that just an extra 10 pounds of body weight is the equivalent of 40 pounds of added pressure placed on your knees and other joints found within your lower body. That seems huge, doesn’t it?

So what other health benefits can you expect to see once you hit a goal of 5% weight loss? Let’s review 5 known health benefits that could be very important to your wellness and longevity!

  1. Better Quality Sleep: There’s almost nothing better than waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day after an amazing night of good quality sleep. One 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania indicated that individuals who lost 5% body weight reported an additional 22 minutes of sleep nightly, while also waking up feeling more refreshed and energized. Over the course of a week, that’s over 2 hours of extra sleep!

With better rest comes increased energy, which is linked to higher levels of NEAT, a larger contributor to total calories burned throughout the day than structured workouts. Higher levels of NEAT make it easier to maintain your weight loss, and also help you to achieve your weight loss or shape change goals until they are fully met.

If you have a history of sleep apnea, 5% weight loss can improve the condition and increase the possibility of weaning yourself from a CPAP breathing machine. Without a history of sleep apnea, studies indicate that as little as 5% weight loss correlates with better breathing at night through normalizing oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and reducing upper airway resistance. 

  1. Improved Mood: Your mood plays an important role in your dedication to your goals, impacts your motivation, and influences how you show up in the world for yourself and others. There’s no need to wait on weight loss thinking that once you hit your goal weight, your mood will suddenly do a 360 and you’ll feel happier than ever.

Scientists aren’t entirely sure why individuals experience such a biochemical shift in mood with a 5% weight loss, but contribute the change to improved body image, as well as better quality sleep. As the saying goes, “what you focus on expands.” When your thoughts are predominantly positive, you are more likely to feel inspired to get in your daily walks, your weekly workouts, prepare healthier foods, and prioritize your own self-care over letting yourself get too run down. 

  1. Reduction In Inflammation: Inflammation is linked to other health issues including arthritis, heart disease, strokes, certain types of cancer, poor gut health, and high blood pressure. Inflammation and insulin resistance also go hand in hand, so as you reduce insulin resistance through weight loss, inflammation may naturally decrease. 

As inflammation is reduced, hunger hormones also improve. This is particularly important since hormones like leptin naturally regulate how much hunger you experience throughout the day. As you may know from some of our other blogs, properly managed hunger makes it much easier to stick to the diet plan that is best for you and your physiology. 

  1. Reduced Risk of Diabetes: Excess body fat, particularly the fat storage found around your middle, produces chemicals that make your body stop reacting to the effects of insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for keeping your blood sugar within normal range. Although the pancreas can work harder to make more insulin in response to rising blood sugar, this doesn’t always lead to blood sugars consistently staying within a healthy range. 

On the other hand, weight loss allows for more manageable blood sugars and improved insulin sensitivity. Just by dropping weight, you can lower your risk for diabetes by as much as 58%. This is close to the equivalent of what many medications used to treat diabetes will do through the reduction of elevated blood sugar after meals. I’m sure most would prefer to keep their blood sugars in check naturally rather than relying on medications. 

  1. Improved Heart Health: A loss of 5% of your body weight leads to improved heart health in more ways than one. Studies indicate that once you’ve lost around 5% of your body weight, you’ll start to notice improvement in labs used as biomarkers for your cardiovascular health including your triglycerides and cholesterol, as well as improvements in blood pressure readings. 

One study conducted by Washington University researchers demonstrated that a somewhat minimal reduction in weight led to improvements in 4 key measures of heart health: the heart’s pumping ability, the heart’s ability to relax, the thickness of the heart muscle tissue, and the thickness of the carotid artery walls. To put it simply, rather than placing as much stress and strain on the heart through carrying extra weight, weight loss impacts your heart’s ability to pump blood as it should while remaining the size that it should.

I hope this post provides you with some encouragement to keep going with your weight loss or shape change goals if you are starting to feel like the scale isn’t changing as much as you’d like it to or if your inches lost seem to be only minimal. Remember, there is so much going on internally as you lose weight that impacts your overall health. 

While it is nice to fit into smaller jeans or see more definition when you look in the mirror, being the healthiest version of yourself is what really matters, and that may not be reflected by the scale or a tape measure. When things seem to be going slow, keep going! Keep working towards being the best version of yourself on the inside and outside and celebrate every small change!

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash